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Posts Tagged ‘diy’

CrazyPi Board Runs Ubuntu and ROS on Rockchip RK3128 SoC for Robotics & IoT Projects (Crowdfunding)

August 10th, 2017 4 comments

CrazyPi is a maker board powered by Rockchip RK3128 quad core Cortex A7 processor that can take various magnetically connected modules such as LIDAR, gimbal, 4G LTE, etc.., and runs both Ubuntu and ROS (Robot Operating System) for DIY robotics & IoT projects.

Click to Enlarge

CrazyPi main board specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3128 quad core Cortex A7 processor @ 1.2 GHz with ARM Mali GPU
  • MCU – ARM Cortex-M3 @ 72 MHz
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3L @ 1066 MHz
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash pre-loaded with Ubuntu and ROS
  • Connectivity – 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi @ 150 Mbps, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port
  • Expansion Headers – Two headers with a total of 36-pin exposing 1x HDMI, 1x speaker, 1x microphone, 3x PWM, 1x I2C, 1x UART, 1x SPDIF, 1x SPI, 1x USB
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port ?
  • Dimensions – Smaller than credit card

The full details are not available yet, but the company claims CrazyPi is “completely open source and DIY”, so I’d assume more details will eventually show up on CrazyPi github repo (now empty). A cloud service also allows you to stream the webcam output from anywhere in the world.

Webcam View and Map Generated from CrazyPi Robot Kit

What’s  quite interesting is that the board is designed to be connected to add-on boards, modules and accessories allowing you to build robots:

  • Robotic shield board to control motors / servos
  • Media shield board for HDMI output and use the board as a mini computer
  • 4G LTE module (maybe part of the robotic shield board?)
  • Crazyou 4K LIDAR sensor with SLAM (Simultaneous Localization And Mapping) function to automatically create map of your environment
  • 720p camera module
  • 2-degrees gimbal
  • 4-wheel robot chassis
  • 2x 18650 batteries and case

Again, we don’t have the exact details for each, but the promo video explains what can be done with the kits.

Crazyou – that’s the name of the company – has launched the project on Kickstarter to fund mass production with a 200,000 HKD goal (around $25,800). The board is supposed to cost $29, but is not offered standalone in the crowdfunding campaign, so instead you could start with a $59 CrazyPi Media Kit with the mainboard, camera and media board. If you want the complete robot shown above, you’d have to pledge $466 for the CrazyPi Advanced Kit reward with the camera module, the mainboard, the gimbal, the robotic shield board, battery case and charger, the chassis, and LIDAR. Various bundles are available to match different projects’ requirements. Shipping to most countries adds around $19, and delivery is scheduled for October 2017. There’s not much to see on Crazyou website, but eventually more details may emerge there.

Thanks to Freire for the tip.

HTTM Backlit Capacitive Touch Switch / Button Sells for about one Dollar

July 27th, 2017 1 comment

You may have some project that requires buttons to turn on and off devices, or perform other tasks like navigating a user interface or playing games. One interesting and inexpensive solution for this could be HTTM (HelTec Touch Model) capacitive touch buttons that include three pins for power, ground, and the button status, as well as a backlight. You’ll find them on many websites, and one of the cheapest option is a pack of 10 buttons going for $9.91 on Aliexpress.

HTTM button specifications:

  • Voltage input range: + 2.7v to + 6v
  • Signal output – Voltage: + 3.3v; Current up to 500 mA
  • Header – 3-pin with GND, VCC, and OUT
  • Backlight color – red, blue (cyan), or yellow
  • Dimensions – 20.4 x 16.6 mm
  • Operating temperature range: -30 ℃ to + 70 ℃

You’ll find more details on the manufacturer’s product page including a user manual (Chinese only), and their DIYtrade page implies they may have versions with up to four keys:

HTTM is HelTec Touch Model shorthand;
□ → Number of keys: S- single key, D- double keys, T- triple keys, F- four keys;
◇ → Version attribute: C- conventional version, S- Special Edition (customized version);
△ → backlight colors: B- blue, R- red, G- green

But I could not find any of those. The company (Chengdu HelTec Automation Electronics Technology Co. Ltd) also makes some OLED displays, which may be worth checking out.

I learned about HTTM button via Pete Scargill’s blog, and he shot a video showing how to use the switch directly connected to a relay board (The demo starts at the 1:50 mark). Since it’s using capacitive touch, he explains you could place one or more buttons inside a box, and it would still work. Those buttons are also likely more durable than mechanical switches.

$13 Orange Pi Zero Set 6 Kit Could Make an Inexpensive DIY Google Home Alternative

July 13th, 2017 7 comments

Since Google released the Google Assistant SDK for Raspberry Pi 3, and other ARMv7 boards, I thought I should it try myself on one of the tiny headless boards I have, as you just need audio output and a microphone. I first planed to use NanoPi NEO board with NanoHAT PCM5102A audio board, a cheap USB microphone, and pair of speakers, but this morning, I’ve come across Orange Pi Zero Set 6 kit that looks perfect for this applications and sells for just $12.95 plus shipping ($18.27 in total for me) with Orange Pi Zero board, Orange Pi Zero interface board, and a case.

Orange Pi Zero board is powered by Allwinner H2+ quad core Cortex A7 processor with 512MB RAM, and can run the required Ubuntu/Debian distribution using one of the Armbian images, and connected to the Internet over Ethernet or WiFi, however if you want to use the latter, be aware that stability and performance issues have been reported.

Microphone and audio output are added using Orange Pi Zero Interface Board V1.1 which adds one built-in microphone, and a 3.5mm audio jack where you should be able to connect your speakers. You’ll also get two extra USB host ports.

All you need to complete the hardware setup is a micro SD card, a pair of speakers, and a USB power supply. I’ve seen some demo requiring that you press a button before speaking. That will not be possible with this kit unless you add some button connected through USB or GPIO, but hopefully it’s possible to use the “hot word” technique to avoid adding that extra button.

The instructions on Google developer website for ARM boards seem clear enough, but since Aliexpress lists over 3,000 orders for that “Set 6” kit, I assumed somebody already tried that and wrote some specific instructions. Sadly, I had no luck finding such instructions, but I noticed somebody did something similar with Orange Pi PC board that includes a microphone and audio jack, and he uses a jar as an enclosure.

Ficus Online also posted the instructions on his blog, where he explains how to use a hotword too, so in theory you would not need any button. You may want to check their full website, as they use this Smart Jar as a home automation gateway with other purposes than just Google Assistant. If alternatively, you have some 96Boards on hand, there’s a specific Google Assistant project being worked on. If you prefer Amazon Alexa, there’s a project for Orange Pi + Alexa on Github, but it has not been updated for a year.

Helios4 Personal Cloud DIY NAS Supports 3.5″ Hard Drives, RAID, and More (Crowdfunding)

May 11th, 2017 35 comments

A few months ago, we covered GnuBee Personal Cloud 1, a NAS that runs on open source software, and that supports up to six 2.5″ SATA drives. The crowdfunding has been successful – after lowering the funding target -, and backers should hopefully get the NAS right after summer. But at the time, some people complained about the  memory capacity (512MB),  the lack of support for 3.5″ drives, and a few other items. A new project called “Helios4 Personal Cloud” addresses many of those concerns. It comes with 1 to 2GB RAM, enclosure supporting four 3.5″ drives, supports RAID, and is powered by Marvell ARMADA 388 processor that has been specifically designed for this type of application.

Helios4 NAS specifications:

  • SoC – Marvell ARMADA 388 dual core Cortex A9 processor @ up to 1.866 GHz with RAID5/6 acceleration engines, security acceleration engines, etc…
  • System Memory – 1 or 2 GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 4x SATA 3.0 ports, 2x HDD power connectors for 3.5″ drives using the provided DIY enclosure; micro SD slot supporting SDHC/SDXC cards
  • Connectivity – 1x Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports, 1x micro USB port for serial console only
  • Expansion – 14-pin GPIO header, 4-pin I2C header which can be used for an LCD screen & control buttons.
  • Misc – 2x PWM fan headers + 2x fans provided with DIY enclosure
  • Power Supply – 12V/8A via 4-pin jack

The basic kit comes with an Helios4 board (shown below), 4x SATA data cables, 2x Molex to dual SATA power cables, and a 12V/8A power adapter. The full kit adds a case available in black or blue, two 70mm PWM ball bearing fan, and a fasteners set.

The NAS will support Armbian Debian and Ubuntu images, OpenMediaVault open NAS solution, and SynCloud open source app server. The developers (Kobol Team), based in Singapore, also promise to release software and hardware design files for the project. For now, they have Armbian build scripts, as well as Linux and U-boot source code on Github. The board has been designed in collaboration with SolidRun, which has experience with Marvell via their MACCHIATObin / ClearFog boards and system-on-modules.

The project has just been launched on Kickstarter, where Kobol aims to raise 150,000 SGD ($106,000 US). All prices are in SGD, but I’ll use the USD equivalent going forward. An early bird pledge of $125 US should get you the basic kit with 1GB RAM, while $149 is required for the 2GB version. If you want a full kit with enclosure, you’ll need to pledge $139 (1GB RAM) or $169 (2GB RAM). Worldwide shipping adds $39 or $43 for respectively the basic and full kit, even if you are in Singapore. Delivery is scheduled for September 2017.

$6 LicheePi Zero ARM Board Runs Linux 4.10, Supports Lots of Add-On Boards (Crowdfunding)

March 10th, 2017 89 comments

We’ve already covered LicheePi One board powered by Allwinner A13 processor, but it was not for sale out of China, and the developers are now back with LicheePi Zero board/module, slightly bigger than an SD card, featuring Allwinner V3s processor, and offered for as low as $6, or $8 with WiFi via an Indiegogo campaign.

LicheePi Zero specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner V3s ARM Cortex A7 processor @ up to 1.2 GHz with an ARM Mali-400 GPU, 512Mbit (64MB) DDR2 on-chip
  • Storage – micro SD card slot, SPI flash (not 100% clear if it will be populated when shipped to backers)
  • Display – FPC40 RGB Connector with support for 800×480 RGB LCD
  • Audio – Audio codec
  • USB – micro USB OTG port
  • Expansion
    • 2x 15 headers with 2.54mm pitch, breadboard friendly with GPIOs, 2x UART, 1x SPI, 2x I2C,ADC, 1x PWM
    • 2x  30 half-holes with 1.27mm pitch with OTG USB,MIPI CSI,EPHY,RGB LCD, more GPIOs
    • RGB connector can take add-on boards for GPIO, LVDS, HDMI, VGA, etc…
  • Misc – RGB LED
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port, or 5V/GND header
  • Dimensions – 44.6×25.5mm

Pinout Diagram

Most development board come with SDK using older version of Linux, but LicheePi Zero supports the latest Linux 4.10 kernel, as well as buildroot, Debian, and Raspbian Jessie with Pixel (experimental). The source code and hardware documentation can be found on Github.

Another selling point of this tiny board is the number of add-boards, with a WiFi board that be either plugged into the micro SDcard slot, or soldered along some of the 2.54mm pitch header, several converter using the RGB interface for VGA, LVDS, HDMI, DVP camera) or even some extra GPIOs.

The developer also provides a baseboard for LicheePi Zero module giving access to a 3.5mm audio jack, a built-in microphone, and Ethernet, as well as I/O ports for even more add-ons such as cameras, OLED or TFT displays, speakers, LoRa modules, and so on.

The modularity and options of Lichee Pi Zero is well summarized in the diagram below.

To get started easier, the developers also worked on some projects or bundles like a portable Linux handheld computer, a mini DIY laptop, VGA or HDMI computer bundles, “LoRa Netgate”, wireless speakers, etc… You can watch the demo of some of those, and more details about the board and modules in the video below.

While LicheePi Zero and ZeroW models are respectively $6 and $8 per unit, you can’t buy one only at price, as the minimum order is two, so $12 for Zero, and $16 for ZeroW, except for the developer edition (shipped ASAP) that’s $12 for one ZeroW. ZeroW mini laptop DIY suit rewards with a LicheePi Zero, a micro SD wifi card, an OTG adapter, a 5″ 800×480 LCD, a wireless keyboard, a LiPo battery, and other accessories as shown at the start of the video above is just $39, while the LoRa Netgate suite with 2 A.I Thinker LoRa modules and a custom protocol (not LoRaWAN) goes for $40. There are many other rewards that you can checked in the Indiegogo page. Shipping is not included by only adds $5, and delivery is planned for May to June 2017 depending on perks. You can ask your question on on Indiegogo, as well as iLichee Forums.

Thanks to Freire for the tip.

Open Surgery Initiative Aims to Build DIY Surgical Robots

February 7th, 2017 No comments

Medical equipments can be really expensive because of the R&D involved and resulting patents, low manufacturing volume, government regulations, and so on. Developed countries can normally afford those higher costs, but for many it may just be prohibitively expensive. The Open Surgery initiative aims to mitigate the costs by “investigating whether building DIY surgical robots, outside the scope of healthcare regulations, could plausibly provide an accessible alternative to the costly professional healthcare services worldwide”.

DIY Surgical Robot – Click to Enlarge

The project is composed of member from the medical, software, hardware, and 3D printing communities, is not intended for (commercial) application, and currently serves only academic purposes.

Commercial surgical robots can cost up to $2,000,000, but brings benefits like smaller incisions, reduced risks of complications and readmissions, and shorter hospital stays thanks to a faster recovery process. There have already been several attempts within the robotics community to come up with cheaper and more portable surgical robots, such as RAVEN II Surgical robot initially developed with funding from the US military to create a portable telesurgery device for battlefield operations, and valued at $200,000. The software used to control RAVEN II has been made open source, so other people can improve on it.

The system is currently only used by researchers in universities to experiment with robotic surgery, but it can’t be used on humans, as it lacks the required safety and quality control systems. This is a step in the right direction, but the price makes it still out of reach for most medical hacker communities, so Frank Kolkman, who setup the Open Surgery initiative, has been trying to build a DIY surgical robot for around $5000 by using as many off-the-shelf parts and prototyping techniques such as laser cutting and 3D printing for several months with the help of the community.

Three major challenges to designing a surgical robot (theoretically) capable of performing laparoscopic surgery have been identified:

  1. The number and size of tools: during a single operation a surgeon would switch between various types of tools, so a robot would either have to have many of them or they should be able to be interchangeable. The instruments are also extremely small, and difficult to make
  2. Anything that comes into contact with the human body has to be sterile to reduce the risk of infection, and most existing tools are made of stainless steel so that they can be sterilized by placing them in an autoclave, that may not be easily accessible to many people.
  3. The type of motion a surgical robot should be able to make, whereby a fixed point of rotation in space is created where the tool enters the body through an entry port – or ‘trocar’. The trocar needs to be stationary so as to avoid tissue damage.

He solved the first  issue by finding laporoscopic instruments on Alibaba, as well as camera, CO2 insufflation pumps, and others items. For the second hurdle, he realized a domestic oven turned to 160 degrees centigrade for 4 hours could be an alternative to an autoclave. The mechanical design was the most complicated, as it required many iterations, and he ended with some 3D printed parts, and DC servo motors. Software was written using Processing open source scripting language. You can see the results in the short video below.

While attempting surgery with the design would not be recommended just yet, a $5,000 DIY surgical robot appears to feasible. Maybe it could be evaluated by one or more trained surgeons first, and then tested on animals that needs surgery, before eventually & potentially being used on human, who would not get the treatment otherwise.

While there’s “Open” in “Open Surgery” and the initial intent was to make the project open source, it turned out it is almost impossible to design surgical robots without infringing on patents. That’s no problem as long as you make parts for private use, however Frank explains that sharing files could cause problems, and the legality of doing so requires some more research.

Olimex Teres I A64 DIY Open Source Hardware Laptop Kit Design Complete, To Sell for 225 Euros

February 2nd, 2017 21 comments

Olimex has been working on an open source hardware Olimex A64 laptop for a little over a year, and the company has now complete thed hardware design of their TERES I laptop, and are working on finalizing the software design before accepting orders for 225 Euros for TERES-A64-BLACK and TERES-A64-WHITE models.

As explained in the instructions manual, Olimex laptop will not be sold assembled, but as a kit to let the users assemble the following parts themselves:

  • TERES-006-Keyboard QWERTY keyboard
  • TERES-023-Touch touchpad with TERES-022-Touch-Cover and TERES-010-Touch-Btns
  • TERES-014-Screw-Set with 42 pieces of different kind of screws.
  • TERES-PCB3-Touch PCB
  • TERES-PCB2-IO PCB with headphone jack, micro SD slot, and a USB port
  • TERES-PCB4-Btn PCB for the power button together with TERES-009-Pwr-Btn plastic and TERES-013-LED-pipe
  • TERES-PCB1-A64 motherboard based on Allwinner A64 processor.
  • TERES-PCB5-KEYBOARD keyboard control board
  • Display parts: TERES-008-LCD-Back, TERES-016-Hinge-Set, TERES-007-LCD-Frame, and TERES-015-LCD 11.6″ LCD panel
  • TERES-019-Camera & TERES-020-Camera-Lens for the webcam
  • Speakers, battery,WiFi antenna, and a few flat cables to connect all the boards together

Click to Enlarge

That’s quite a lot of parts, but the instructions are clear enough, and you and/or your kid) will have bragging rights to say “I’ve made my own laptop!” wchich should have the following specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner A64 quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 4GB eMMC Flash, micro SD slot
  • Display – 11.6″ 1366×768 pixels display
  • Video Output – 1x mini HDMI 1.4 port
  • Audio – Via mini HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack, 2x speakers, microphone
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi up to 150Mbps, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • USB – 2x USB port ports
  • Front camera
  • QWERTY keyboard + touchpad with 2 buttons
  • Battery – 7,000mAh capacity
  • Weight – 980 grams

You’re not quite done yet, as you still have to flash the firmware/operating system – either Android or Linux – on a micro SD, in order to boot the laptop. Software and hardware documentation is available in github. The software currently includes ARM trusted firmware, u-boot, the Linux kernel and device tree files with more common soon. The hardware has been designed with KiCAD open source EDA software, and if you want to change or improve one of the boards in the design, you can do so, as the source schematics and PCB layout are there for everyone to study and/or modify. If you don’t want to modify anything, but would like to have access to spare parts, you will be able to buy them instead.

eMMC, Audio, T-Card section of the Schematics – Click to Enlarge

If you go FOSDEM 2017, you’ll have opportunity to check out the laptop yourself since Olimex will be there.

MacroFAB FX Development Board is an Open source Audio Electronics Prototyping Platform (Crowdfunding)

January 31st, 2017 No comments

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a Linux multi-effects guitar pedal, and if you are interested in such audio projects, another company called MacroFab, specializing in manufacturing & assembling PCBs & electronic device, has now designed open source FX development board for audio electronics prototyping, that can be used for audio effects “guitar” pedals, and let you design your own tones.

Key features of FX development board:

  1. Potentiometers
  2. 9V battery holder
  3. ¼” Input and output jacks connected to breadboard
  4. True bypass 3PDT switch
  5. User selectable power supply connections
  6. Dual solderless breadboards with power rails selectable by jumpers
  7. Adjustable 9 V power supply
  8. Power supply with 2.1 mm dc input jack for use with AC-to-AC wall wart; +/- 15 volt @ 200 mA power supplies with over-current protection; +1.25 to 9 V @ 150 mA adjustable power supply; Split voltage rail (1/2*9 Volt Rail) @ 15 mA for use as a virtual ground

The board can be used for audio applications by guitar FX designers, electronic audio hobbyists, and music creators, but also for any kind of electronics projects. The company will provide pedal templates and schematics available for download on fxdevboard.com site. The company also encourages makers to design their own PCB after prototyping, and send them the gerber files for manufacturing.

FX Devboard project has now launched on CrowdSupply where the company aims to raise at least $25,000. A $150 pledge should get you the board with a power adapter, but if you want a case and a wire jumper kit, you’ll need to pledge $190. Delivery is planned for April 14, 2017, and while shipping is free to the US, it adds $20 to the rest of the world.